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Tracing Andrews’ Black History

Tracing Andrews’ Black History

Wanda Cantrell
Officer Manager, James White Library
Interviewed by Adriana Santana

 

 

How long have you been working at Andrews?
If you count the time as a student staff, I have been working here for 32 years.

 

Oh wow, so how was Black History Month celebrated when you first started here?
We didn’t really have the whole month—it was basically a weekend. The services were held in Pioneer Memorial Church, at that time it was very popular and people came from all over. People would come from Chicago and Detroit, and they had special speakers. At the time they didn’t have extra chapels or forums throughout the month—it was pretty much just the weekend.

 

How do you think about Black History Month compared to how it use to be?
I like the fact that they have a lot of activities going on, and educational things. It provides opportunities to educate not only the students but the general population as well. My only disappointment is that they are having a separate service in the Howard Performing Arts Center, because it’s not inclusive. The point of Black History Month is to educate, and if there is a separate service there are people who aren’t going to be there that need to be educated.

 

So, how important do you feel like Black History is to this campus in regards to educating and making people aware?
I think it’s very important. I know a lot of people say “Everybody has their history” and “Why are we focusing on black history?” but we are the only group of people who were taken from their native country and brought to be slaves. There’s no other minority group in this nation that was treated like that. Yes, everybody has had a type of disparity happen to them, but not to the point where they were enslaved and looked at as less than everybody else. So I think it’s very important for everybody to understand why we have a Black History Month. It was Ellen White who said if you don't look at the past, you will make the same mistakes again. Also, we are a large group on this campus so I think people need to know why. Some years ago they had a workshop where blacks, whites and others were put into groups to have a chance to be in each other’s shoes to see what it’s like.

 

Is there anything else you would like to happen this month?
I think this would be the time where all the minority groups come together for a big Friday night program where everyone is invited and everyone can interact together. They can make it a positive experience where it’s not just about the blacks but it’s about all the minorities coming together and we can all work together positively. Other than that I think they are doing a great job. I think it’s really nice that they are focusing on the month and not just the weekend.

 

Do you feel like Andrews as an institution has promoted Black History Month or do you think this is mainly student-driven?
I know Dr. Arthur, the Provost, sends out emails to the faculty and staff to let us know what’s happening on campus.

 

Do you think Andrews should be more vocal when it comes to this month, and have more of a hand when it comes to it?
Yes, I do. It’ll probably never happen, but I do. Because in order for things to change, yes, one person can start the process, but it takes a whole community to fully change it. It would be good.

 

So there are many different types of churches on this campus, and certain groups go to certain churches; do you feel like that contributes to the divide you described during Black History Month?
Yes, definitely; before everybody worshipped in PMC but now everything is diversified. I can understand students wanting to be with their own people; but there should come a time where everybody is together, when all the other exterior churches are closed for the day and everybody comes together to celebrate not only black history, but just to celebrate. Because needless to say,  when we go up to heaven there aren’t going to be certain groups in certain sections—everybody is going to be together and if we can’t do that now I don’t know how we are going to transition in Heaven and be happy.

 

So there’s this notion about Black History Month where people don’t understand why we have it, or why there needs to be a whole month, and sometimes ask “Where is White History Month?”—how do you feel about that?
Again, we are the only group of people who were taken and enslaved. There was a forum that talked about the experiences of other minorities so some people need to understand when you have privilege, and don’t realize it, it doesn’t phase you. The only way they are going to know what it’s like living as a black person in America is through the education of Black History Month. If we were at the point where blacks are being treated the with the respect they deserve then we wouldn’t need it, but after all these years we are not at that point. So yes, we need the education.

 

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